The board of education is encouraging all DCHS seniors to get applications in for the Tennessee Promise program, a scholarship and mentoring program that will begin in the fall of 2015.
The initiative will provide students with a last-dollar scholarship, meaning the scholarship will cover tuition and fees not covered by the Pell grant, the HOPE scholarship, or TSAA funds. Students may use the scholarship at any of the state’s 13 community colleges, 27 colleges of applied technology, or other eligible institution offering an associate’s degree program. While removing the financial burden is key, a critical component of Tennessee Promise is the individual guidance each participant will receive from a mentor who will assist the student as he or she navigates the college admissions process. In addition, Tennessee Promise participants must complete eight hours of community service per term enrolled, as well as maintain satisfactory academic progress (2.0 GPA) at their institution.
"Tennessee Promise is a financial aid program for all Tennessee high school graduates," Supervisor of Instruction for Grades 7-12 Lisa Cripps told the Review. "It provides two years free tuition to a community or technical college. It is a 'last-dollar' scholarship, meaning that if you get the Pell grant, the Tennessee Lottery, or the Tennessee Assistance award it will supplement that. If you don’t get any of those it will pick up the entire amount of tuition."
The Tennessee Student Assistance Corporation (TSAC) will administer the scholarship component of Tennessee Promise, while local, non-profit partnering organizations will coordinate the mentoring and community service pieces. County mayors selected partnering organizations for their counties in the summer of 2014. Once a student applies to the Tennessee Promise program, his or her respective partnering organization will be responsible for reaching out regarding program requirements and mentorship connections.
Community service is also a requirement, and participating students must perform a minimum of eight hours community service per academic term. Students may choose from several activities that fit within the set guidelines.
Beginning with the Class of 2015, students in Tennessee may apply for the Tennessee Promise scholarship, which will provide two years tuition-free education at a community college or technical school in Tennessee. Tennessee Promise is a last-dollar scholarship, meaning it will cover costs of tuition and mandatory fees not met from Pell, HOPE, or TSAA. As part of the program, students will be paired with a partnering organization and provided with a mentor who will support them during the college application process.
"TnAchieves is a 501c3 organization that our county has selected to handle the Tennessee Promise initiative here in our county," said DCHS Counselor Lori Myrick. "They are in the process of recruiting community mentors to help the students who sign up for the scholarship program. They will be holding meetings with students and parents and will be working closely with the students who sign up, so that they don’t miss any of the deadlines.
High school seniors can apply for Tennessee Promise at https://tnachieves.org/ between Aug. 15 and Nov. 1. In order to participate in the program, several requirements and deadlines must be met:
•Apply to the program by Nov. 1.
•File the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by February 15, 2015 at www.fafsa.gov. For families who have not yet filed taxes for the prior year, estimates can be used on the FAFSA and updated once taxes have been filed.
•Attend mandatory meetings, held at local high schools, with partnering organization by March 1 and May 31, 2015. (Local meeting times will be announced.)
•Complete FAFSA verification, if required by the student's institution, by August 1, 2015.
•Complete 8 hours of community service for each semester they receive Tennessee Promise funding, to be completed before the start of each term. That means they must complete their first 8 hours the summer before enrolling in a community college or TCAT. Partnering organizations will assist students in finding community service opportunities in their area.
•Apply to and enroll in an eligible institution. Some partnering organizations may ask students to apply to an eligible college program by February 15, 2015. Though this deadline is not an official requirement, it is highly encouraged.
Once in the program, students must maintain satisfactory academic progress (the equivalent of a 2.0 GPA at a community college), complete 8 hours of community service before the start of each term enrolled, and file the FAFSA by February 15 every year.
Scholarship funds will be given directly to the school once his or her enrollment is confirmed. It should be emphasized that if a student does not complete all of the Tennessee Promise program requirements and meet all the deadlines, he or she will not be eligible for Tennessee Promise funding.
"The most important thing right now is to get registered by Nov. 1," Cripps stressed. "Every senior should apply, and we hope everyone does."
"It doesnt take long to register," added Myrick. "It's a fairly simple process."